In the exercises for week 4 of the Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron) one of the tasks is to write your own Artist’s Prayer.
AN ARTIST’S PRAYER
O Great Creator, We are gathered together in your name That we may be of greater service to you And to our fellows. We offer ourselves to you as instruments. We open ourselves to your creativity in our lives. We surrender to you our old ideas. We welcome your new and more expansive ideas. We trust that you will lead us. We trust that it is safe to follow you. We know you created us and that creativity Is your nature and our own. We ask you to unfold our lives According to your plan, not our low self-worth. Help us to believe that it is not too late And that we are not too small or too flawed To be healed— By you and through each other—and made whole. Help us to love one another, To nurture each other’s unfolding, To encourage each other’s growth, And understand each other’s fears. Help us to know that we are not alone, That we are loved and lovable. Help us to create as an act of worship to you.
Of course, we’re now in Week 8, and I haven’t done it yet.
So, perhaps it’s time to really look at how I wish to co-create with the Creator.
Great Creator and Spirit within, I rest easy knowing that my purpose is to share my learnings and that when I lean into you, I know enough. I acknowledge and accept that all my creative urges and yearnings are Divine, So today, I offer myself into the flow of your creative energy. I open myself to co-create with Divine Love, welcoming new ideas and new ways of connecting and working with old ideas. I am willing to let go of the need to know it all now before I get started. I trust that it is safe to explore my creative yearnings, trying new methods and ways. I dare to ask that you supply all my needs: emotional, mental, creative, health, and even financial. I am learning to trust and surrender. I am perfectly made and created; I am healthy and whole. Allow me to be a vessel for your Divine and Creative love to flow to others, accepting Divine Love to fill me and overflow. Let my creativity be my act of worship. And so it is.
I took a moment today to reread one of my posts from ten years ago: The Lord is my shepherd. It was a collection of thoughts about Psalm 23 and what it means to feel safe in the presence of God.
For these last ten years, I’ve come to understand that our English Bible translation uses “the Lord” as the standard translation wherever the original used YHWH. I’ve distanced myself from the idea of God being a man sitting Santa-like on his sky-throne.
Somehow distant and looking down on us all – rather than Spirit and in each and every one of us. Over these past 22 months, I realise that what has kept me going strong is the Divine presence of inner peace, abundance, and compassion, despite living in a time of turmoil.
So, today I want to share my thoughts on what it means to allow the Infinite to flow through us as Divine Wisdom, peace and love, taking thoughts and ideas from Psalm 23.
Divine Wisdom shepherds me
One of the things about sheep and shepherds is that the sheep get used to the shepherd because the shepherd lives with them twenty-four hours a day. They recognise the shepherd by the sound of their voice and the scent.
And so, as I learn to live in the presence of the Divine, I learn to listen to that still, small voice of Divine Wisdom. It’s often hushed, although occasionally, I get a brutal shake or prod!
Shepherding is about being led, surrendering to the path of Divine Will, rather than what my ego would have me do. And when I listen and surrender, I recognise that I have everything I need.
Everything I need: all the time I could possibly need to get things done, all the love and affection that my heart desires, and all the resources that I need at this moment.
In fact, when I sit with my God Box, which I made at the beginning of this year, I am in awe! All the worries and concerns that I put in my God Box were taken care of. All of them. Not a single one of those worries came to pass this year! I took all those things that were beyond my control and simply said, “you handle this for now, and when I’m ready, gently place it on my plate to take care of”.
Resting in the presence of the Divine
Most of us remember that the shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures; there’s a lushness to this imagery. In addition to having our fill – an all you can eat banquet – do you experience the softness and gentleness of lying down and resting?
How have you rested in 2021?
Are you resting gently and deeply, or do you stay up at night with worries?
To quote my previous post on Psalm 23:
“We have found both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction.”
In addition to surrendering to rest and relaxation, we are offered our fill of living water – to be cleansed, refreshed and revitalised.
Can you allow the Infinite to flow through you?
My soul is restored and renewed
I wear myself out trying to do it all from my own strength and under my own steam. I forget – regularly – to allow Divine Presence to flow through me and empower me. But, as I let it, my soul and spirit are restored and renewed.
All I have to do is step away from staying business – holding and grasping desperately to doing it all myself.
When I’m doing it all alone, it’s empty and incomplete. My ego’s happy – for a while until it falls and fails. Then it throws a tantrum when I realise that I am not perfect and complete unless I am open to the presence of the Divine.
I am complete when I am One with Spirit. But when I allow myself to be guided by Divine Wisdom, I find myself facing anything and everything. The path takes me back to wholeness.
But it is a soft allowing and opening up. It is surrender and trusting, which I still find challenging.
How are you allowing the Divine Creator to complete you?
A time of turmoil in the world
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death
These two years have felt like a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The foreboding of “it’s out there” could be terrifying, and yet I have discovered this fantastic, deep well within me of inner peace. One that genuinely has surpassed all my understanding.
I know, without a doubt, that we are walking through this valley. That means that there is a light at the end: there will be a moment when we are no longer under the shadow of death.
But I feel an intense peace and calm within me. I haven’t feared for myself or those I love in these two years of uncertainty. I have felt deeply protected and shielded despite all the turmoil.
Some of the changes have been harrowing – as an introvert with a slightly extroverted child, I cannot begin to explain the challenges of two years of home-schooling while working from home. And yet, this too shall pass.
And every time she says that these have been the best two years of her life, I am blown away. In my mind, I have focused on my shortcomings rather than how resilient we have both been!
We have been abundantly protected and shielded. We’ve grown and changed with the changing times.
And in so many ways, I have been miraculously comforted and found safety.
Making time for self-care
Despite the challenges of these times – the enemies that surround us – Divine Wisdom reminds me to take time out. To sit quietly and eat calmly. To enjoy the food before me.
These past two years have been about re-encountering a relationship with gratitude and pausing, especially around food. I’ve made more time cooking and sitting down to eat, with grace before meals, rather than eating on the run.
And what I’ve realised is that this has a very practical application in our digestive system: as we switch over from “fight & flight mode” to “rest and digest”. It’s a crucial physiological distinction. Divine Wisdom reminds me regularly: stop what you’re doing and just eat. It’s okay to take time for nourishing your body without multi-tasking.
I am also reminded that I have a purpose and calling – and that does not require multi-tasking either! It’s becoming more single-minded about “the one thing” and focusing my energy and attention on what I am called to be and do.
The more I follow this, I count my many blessings! My cup indeed does run over!
Guided by Divine Wisdom, with goodness & mercy watching my back
Who has your back?
We’re promised that both goodness and mercy will follow us wherever we go. Mercy sweeps along behind me, forgiving my mistakes and weaknesses, allowing me to forgive myself.
Can I let go of the guilt and shame that I’ve carried and allow it to be swept away by goodness and mercy?
The final part of Psalm 23 reminds us that we dwell forever with Divine Presence, finally reaching that place of complete Oneness with Spirit.
I belong. I am loved and cherished, with an everlasting love.
This is what it means for Divine Wisdom to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
Will you allow the Infinite to flow through you until you are One with Spirit?
Over recent weeks, in my healing journey, I have been examining my relationship with trust. It first came to my attention when I looked at my business decisions, especially mistakes that I have made over the past 20 years. But, in recent days, I noticed a pattern emerge.
The beauty of recognising patterns of behaviour is that it opens the door for change and transformation. What I’ve noticed is a swinging pendulum in my life between distrust and blind trust. This pattern has cost me thousands of dollars, as well as relationships and creating heartbreak.
It is in seeing my actions and omissions accurately that the doors open.
The truth sets us free.
Let me provide you with some concrete examples:
In my early business days, I hired a friend to run one of my companies. Because I was overwhelmed and swamped with the growth in business and hiring new staff, I failed to supervise her properly. She was struggling in getting everything done, and I wasn’t available to support her. I didn’t ask how things were going, instead choosing to focus exclusively on my own overwhelm. Unfortunately, while she was getting the client work done, she wasn’t invoicing the client for it! By the time I realised the mess in accounts receivable and payable, the client had accrued some $40,000.00 in services they hadn’t paid for. Thankfully, the client eventually paid all outstanding invoices. But it took years to get fully up to date, and I bore the financial brunt of being caught between suppliers and financing a client. When I’m overwhelmed, I shut down, dissociate from the present, and turn to blind trust.
In March 2009, I left on holiday for three weeks to New Zealand. I chose the dates based on the weather (end of summer) and flight costs (cheaper because summer holidays were over and it wasn’t yet Easter). I was overwhelmed and exhausted after restructuring staff following the 2008 markets crash. Unfortunately, March 31st is the end of tax season – which meant that my company tax returns were prepared and presented in my absence. The company accountant and external accountants included a refundable expense in “income”, an extra $54,000 in ghost income! As a result, my income tax bill that year was $27,000.00 when it should have been less than $9,000.00. But, you prepay taxes for the next year, based on the estimates of what you paid the previous year! So, not only was I hit with the current tax bill, but my estimated taxes for the next year were identical, giving me a tax credit for years to come. My blind trust created a substantial financial pinch.
I could provide you with many more examples in my professional life where I have distrusted, micro-managed and controlled every aspect of an employee’s performance, to those moments where I am overwhelmed and shut down, leading to no involvement or supervision at all.
Trust = firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something
Distrust = the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon.
Blind faith or blind trust: “unquestioning belief in something, even when it’s unreasonable or wrong”. I take it to mean “trust in spite of evidence to the contrary” or blindly ignoring evidence that perhaps they are undeserving of your complete trust.
How trauma informs our state of mind
Unfortunately, this pattern is not something I learned as an adult, and I’ve been using this pattern since early childhood. When I get overwhelmed, the easiest solution is to shut down and freeze, and this takes me into dissociation from the present moment and avoidance. In these cases, blind faith and trust in others become the only option, and I can’t trust myself.
Hypervigilance at the other end of the pendulum presents itself as distrust, micro-managing every situation as I attempt to control the outcome. Of course, this is exhausting, making me angry (an emotion that I was taught not to acknowledge as a child) and frustrated. To avoid anger, I would rebound into dissociation and shut down.
I never learned how to stay in the middle: in balance, calm and being alert. I struggle on so many levels with trust, and this shows up in my life on every level:
I could choose to sit in victimhood: “this is how I am, because of my childhood“. But I choose not to. I started to look at my patterns as generative learning – an opportunity to grow and change. And I share these learnings with you, because I want you to recognise that you have options and choices available to you.
As I have begun to experience inner peace, the wisdom of trust has become available.
The human experiences that break trust, building distrust
Years ago, I denied being traumatised at boarding school because I wasn’t regularly beaten and abused. Anger and speaking up would earn you a beating, being labelled a Jezebel, or having a rebellious spirit.
I avoided beatings by being “a good girl”, knowing when to shut my mouth and swallowing any anger I felt. The survival skills I learned were to shut down, dissociate, and walk away. Unfortunately, those skills are not very resourceful and helpful in my life anymore.
There are many moments that I wish I were rebellious, angry & unruly. How I wish I had been the wild child that baulked the system and stood up against injustices, daring to question unfair authority. Instead, I chose the safety and security of apathy, withdrawal and indifference. Unfortunately, as an adult, I still struggle with dealing with my anger, boundaries and injustice. As a lawyer, it’s easy to stand up for others. But I shrink instead of standing up for myself. I avoid confrontations of a personal nature, even when they would clear the air.
Through it all, I am entrenched in my independence. Of course, as I know now – hyper-independence is merely a symptom of trauma: unable to ask for help because I can’t trust others. Can I even trust myself?
Taught to obey Church leaders without question:
We had verses drummed into us, which in themselves were not wrong. But was the interpretation of these verses rightly applied?
Under no circumstances were we, children, to question those in authority because they were “appointed by God”. And if God wanted to remove them for wrongdoing, then it was merely our duty to “pray about it” rather than to do anything.
Even the hymns we sang reminded us that we were to “Trust and Obey” rather than stand up for ourselves or others. Helplessness was ingrained, and anything that was not as it “should be” was “God’s will”, and we were to endure it.
Biblical teachings: the human heart
But that wasn’t the only weapon in the arsenal of submission. In reading the below verses, repeatedly we heard: “The heart is deceitful above all things”. Divine Justice prevailing, to each according to their ways, patterns and actions received little mention. Instead, beatings were justified because our hearts were deceitful.
Those in power were above all of that.
How can I trust myself if I believe that my heart is deceitful? What relationship or trust can I build with others if they are devious and incurably sick in their hearts?
If you question what I am telling you, you lack faith. Instead, you should “pray about it” and “trust God” to solve this for you.
If the prevalent attitude about human nature is one of sin and depravity, then there is no trust.
Maureen Murdock, “The Heroine’s Journey”
Divide and conquer has worked for centuries, both within the church and politics, and it’s as quickly at work today as it always has been. Even today, we hear who to distrust and then expected to place blind trust in authority.
But blind faith means that you have no ownership of your spiritual path or will. It relieves you of responsibility, creating victimhood. And victims are powerless, easy to manipulate.
I am so grateful for learning a new way: what it means to have a healthy trust.
As much as I would like to say that my journey back to trust began with trusting Divine Presence in my life, that’s not the truth of my journey. My transformation started with an exploration of self-awareness for personal growth, and spiritual healing occurred after learning and personal development.
The first step back to trust was:
In noticing my patterns of distrust and blind trust, I could explore what healthy trust means. Emotional and spiritual healing have come together as I worked with forgiveness of myself and others.
My trust in the Divine grows as I let go of my need to micro-manage and control every tiny detail. And in living in the Spirit, I trust my insight and intuition to build relationships with others.
What does it mean to trust me, others and Divine Presence?
The elements of trust
Trust is not something we do from a place of apathy, withdrawal or dissociation. It is active and engaged: trust requires relaxed courage, curiosity, and calm presence.
According to Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka, in their book mBraining, they identify the four elements of trust (learning to trust yourself):
Other authors and writers similarly identify the basic requirements of trust as:
These authors point towards the same essential characteristics and requirements of trust. As difficult as it is, I have tried to group these together in a simple explanation:
Is all about listening as well as sharing
As Covey says: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”
To build trust, it’s necessary to voice your wants, needs, desires and motives. It’s okay to have self-interest, but be open about what those interests are
“intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter.”
Trust begins when we are open & transparent – even with ourselves
It is recognising my value and the value of others, leading to genuine empathy & understanding
Clear & heartfelt commitment to my personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of others
Only then can we build trusted relationships
Actions – Consistency & Character:
In order to build trust, there has to be congruence and alignment between what I say and do! This applies as much to promises I make to myself as what I promise others.
Predictable, reliable, & full of integrity
Loyalty, honour & duty
Respect and selfless service
Oriented to values and the vision – not just selfish interest
Clear set of principles, so you can be on the same wavelength
Can be counted upon
Ability – Competency & Credibility:
Mastery – skilled & knowledgeable
Has a domain of expertise and performs their functions well
Will speak up and give their point of view on the matter at hand from a point of knowledge
Stays current & up to date
Self-assured in their competence
Demonstrating progress towards goals
Emotional and spiritual healing: rebuilding trust
When I look back at boarding school and these four qualities of trust, I find those in authority sorely lacking. If they had known better, they would have done better. But they lacked communication skills; they were authoritarian rather than compassionate. When I look at their actions, looking for consistency and character, I find them predictable, but I couldn’t count on them. They were not always congruent in what they said and did, as the rules did not apply equally to all. Perhaps worst of all, they were not skilled and knowledgeable, although they believed themselves to be.
We were left with an expectation of blind faith and trust in authority because the essential elements of a healthy trust were missing.
I now recognise that I have a proactive role in building relationships: I listen to the desires of my heart and trust my gut. I stay engaged and curious, rather than withdrawing. Instead of seeing myself as helpless and needing to be rescued, I recognise that I must play a part in building my future.
True faith is an inner alignment with yourself and with God. It’s a balance of trusting the universe to provide and doing your part to co-create with the Creator.
Letting the Infinite flow in my life: rebuilding trust
The road back to faith, trust and hope is uneven and rocky. Sometimes, it’s the procession of three steps forward and two steps back as I fall into habitual patterns of blind trust or distrust.
I am learning to communicate and listen. As I consistently practise the presence of the Divine in my life, I hear the small, still voice of Spirit. It requires that I quiet my mind – that I sit in Silence and allow my heart to be still. It’s a daily practice in which my mastery builds up each day.
I have to choose to be open and transparent; it doesn’t happen naturally. There are times I want to shut down, and I have to make a conscious choice to be vulnerable and compassionate. When I commit to building relationships with myself, others, and the Divine, trusting relationships open up for me.
I sit in the Silence each morning to reconnect and refill my heart with the faithful love of Divine Presence, for I trust in Divine Love. Each morning I listen to how I should walk and allow my Spirit to submit fully to Spirit
Ps. 143: 8
My understanding of what it means to rely on the Divine entirely has changed: it is no longer helplessness. I am not frozen in fear, unable to think logically or approach life with curiosity. I’m not keeping myself safe by being emotionally disengaged or apathetic. Instead, I am choosing to be fully present and connected.
From this place, I still choose trust, faith and hope.
Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on the Divine completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions. Give the Great Creator the credit for everything you accomplish, trusting that Divine Love will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead.
Prov. 3: 5-6
Other posts your might find interesting on Blind Faith:
We say that God is love, and by this, we typically accept that Divine Love is the law. We see the Divine as the embodiment of love; it is the very nature of the Divine. This love permeates all of creation, present in every one of us.
So, for example, we read in 1 John that anyone who does not love does not know the Divine because Divine Love is the very nature and essence of goodness.
Do you base your love for others on an expectation of reciprocity? Love based on expectations becomes a business deal – if you do this for me, I will love you. How could you make Divine Love an article of commerce? God’s pure love can only flow from a pure heart. It’s impossible to say that you are full of Divine Presence and not overflow with love.
The beatitudes remind us, “Bless those that curse you”.
When we bless, we invoke good upon, calling forth Divine Love. This power of blessing imparts the quickening of spiritual power: it produces growth and increases. It is the very power of multiplication.
A curse, on the other hand, is to affirm evil for or onto something. You might understand this as the removal of Divine Presence. A curse wishes upon others that they not bring forth spiritual good through Divine Love.
When we curse those who curse us, we start from a place of ego: taking upon ourselves the decision to remove Divine Love and Divine Presence from the equation. We punish tit-for-tat, diminishing the spiritual power that produces growth and increase. Because of our pain, we strike out to cause pain to another.
But while your ego may be satisfied, what good has this done for you or another?
Why speak kindly about those to talk badly about you?
Perhaps your natural response is to complain and play the victim. Yet, each time you retell the story of how they wronged you, you replay the emotions and feelings in your body. You relive the moment, over and over again. Our bodies are constantly in tune with these emotions: what are you creating in your health and well-being as you replay and relive a past scenario?
Our stress doesn’t happen “out there”. It is what happens within your mind and your body. How you respond matters: this is the energy that you mirror into the world. It’s the very same energy that will come back to you. In the same way that you can be sure that another person will reap what they sow – you will reap what you sow. You reap the rewards of your thoughts and your words.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
There is no better motivation to speak kindly about others than neuroplasticity! How you respond now is writing neural pathways in your brain. You can self-train and entrain yourself in how to respond.
Most importantly, these same neural pathways become your inner voice and inner critic. They become the automated response in similar situations.
How would you like to entrain yourself to respond in moments of being attacked and stressed in the future?
Finally, consider who is listening and watching you. If you curse those that curse you: who is hearing you do this? Perhaps your children are watching you. Is this what you want them to learn in life?
Or perhaps, you live the Christian life and want your life to be a beacon of light for others. If you claim to love God and yet do not show this in how you respond in everyday life, what example are you showing the world?
Divine Presence is an Inside Job
Transformation is not just what comes out of your mouth or the words that others hear. It is also your thoughts and feelings. So, if you are not feeling up to blessing someone that cursed you, take a moment to sit with your reaction. What is going on inside of you?
Is this about you and an experience from the past you have yet to heal?
Or perhaps, it’s a pattern with this person that repeats, and you have failed to set in place healthy boundaries.
On the other hand, it may simply be a reflection of the state of your relationship with this person.
As you sit with the inner awareness, take time to notice whether you have an overdue conversation with this person. What do you need to clarify or change? Is this a relationship that you can heal?
Patterns of pain
Alternatively, you might notice that your pain is unrelated to this person and what they said to you. What pattern of pain or hurt has this situation shone a light on that hasn’t healed? Is there forgiveness work that you have outstanding?
It is often the case that you remember the pain from your childhood that you have swept under the mat or rationalised. For example, it may well be that a parent, teacher or family member spoke in this way to you, and you felt helpless to respond.
Now, as an adult, you feel the anger of how they mistreated you. A part of you, because you understand that they were doing the best they could, perhaps has already said, “It’s okay, I understand”. But the very fact that you feel triggered sheds light on the healing work you have outstanding.
Will you take this opportunity to go within?
Divine Love often brings people into our lives momentarily to allow us to heal those parts of us that we are overlooking. It’s like a pumice stone that helps us slough off the old skin on the soles of our feet. In the same way, through these healing opportunities, we slough off the deadwood of our soul.
What about this person or situation is truly bothering you?
In what ways did they rub you up the wrong way?
Was it a particular word or phrase that they used?
Maybe it was the tone of their voice?
What about their opinion or comments is vital to you?
As you take time in the silence to consider this person or situation, do you notice a characteristic that you have avoided working on yourself?
Your gratitude: take a moment to thank this person for the opportunity they have given you to go within.
Divine Love flows
If you take a lemon and squeeze it, you expect to get lemon juice.
If you are walking along with your mug of coffee, and someone bumps into you, causing you to spill it, what you will spill is coffee.
That is what you carried in your coffee mug.
So, when you are squeezed or bumped: does Divine Love flow from you? If anything other than Divine Love flows from you, start at the top and reread it all.
The person cursing you is an opportunity to go within. How you do anything – like how you respond when bumped – is how you do everything.
The only thing that can flow out of you is what fills you. Does your cup overflow with Divine Love and inner peace?
Where attention goes, energy flows.
You get to choose where to focus your attention any time another person attacks you. Will you focus on that person and what they have done? Will you choose to be the victim and replay the scenario over in your mind or with others?
Or will you choose the path of healing?
Every interaction with others is an opportunity to notice where you have blocks to the flow of Divine Love in your life. Humility and vulnerability allow us to accept “I am a work in progress”. But it requires that you be open to seeing and attending.
What does Divine Presence require of you today?
Bless those that curse you
Could you bless this person and thank them for holding up a mirror for you to look at yourself thoroughly?
Every person you meet reflects your stage on this journey of life and personal transformation. How does Divine Love overflow through your life? Does it seep out when life squeezes you? Does it spill out if you get bumped?
Divine Love is the law:
Love the Great Creator with all your heart, soul and mind; and
Love your neighbour as yourself.
This is what makes it possible to bless those that curse you.
Dr. Joe’s book is a deep dive into neuroscience, quantum relationships, the Divine, and how to truly draw change to yourself by becoming aligned with what you are asking for.
We are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds – and this is exactly the exercises that Dr. Joe takes you through!
Break the habits of your usual way of feeling, of thinking and of acting in the world, in order to experience a new way of showing up – be transformed by the renewing of your midn!
I believe miracles change and transform us. But so many times I fall into the trap of waiting for a miracle to happen for me, without doing my part! The hard school of knocks teaches that blessings flow more freely to me when I focus my energy, attention and effort on the outcome.
If you want to walk on water – you will have to get out of the boat!
Sometimes, the effort required is spiritual focus, but most times there is a physical or material aspect of expressing our faith as more than just prayer.
This applies to our transformation journey and the renewing of our minds as it does to other miracles we await!
Awareness: the first step of transformation & renewal
The first step in renewing your mind is awareness: what needs to change?
Dr. Joe offers some very practical examples of where to start. Start with the emotions that keep you stuck and on repeat. Particularly those feelings you cannot control. These are feelings triggered by situations and circumstances, perhaps by relationships and interactions.
Focus on the feelings that remind you how human you are and how much you still need to transform.
Personally, I don’t believe any emotions are “bad” or should even be labelled as “negative”. Nonetheless, some feelings are not helpful helpful when they control us and take over our reactions. These feelings can run amok and ruin the show.
When this is the case, we need to break the habits and be transformed and renew our minds!
Why do we need awareness?
Let me give you a quick example:
Sit down and take a few deep breaths. Remember a moment that you were truly happy and joyful. In your mind, rebuild the memory with as many details as you can.
Notice how you begin to feel in your body and emotionally as you focus your thoughts and mind on this memory.
Now, remember something that made you mad or sad or upset you. Build with as many details as you can remember the entire scene – who was there, where and when was it, and what happened as it unfolded. Notice how you now feel in your body.
Notice how your emotions have changed, as you’ve changed the focus of your thoughts.
The emotions that typically control our habitual responses are:
bitterness or resentment
I don’t know about you, but for most of these I was taught I “shouldn’t” feel this way. To a large extent, then, I would ignore and push down these feelings, rather than acknowledging them.
I would say a prayer, and ask God to take the feeling away… as if I were powerless. God needed to take it away – that’s what salvation was, right? There was nothing I could do about it!
As I’ve matured and grown, I’ve realised that this was very irresponsible of me.
While there is a surrendering and handing over to the Divine: there is also an essential part of ownership and responsibility. We play an important role in the transformation & renewing of our mind.
Awareness is accepting that we are feeling this emotion and that it is interfering with in our spiritual transformation. It separates us from ourselves, from others and from God.
I feel… and when I feel this way I start thinking about…
Awareness of my patterns of thought
The second step of breaking the habits and pattern is to notice how our feelings drive our thoughts (and also noticing how our thoughts drive our feelings).
Consider what pattern or loop of emotion/thought you regularly get stuck in. Notice how the emotion feels in your body as well as the typical thoughts that go along with it.
Perhaps you are feeling victimised and that you don’t have control. Your thoughts might be
Why do things like this always happen to me?
What did I do to deserve being treated this way?
How come I always get the short end of the stick?
When am I going to catch a break?
Or perhaps you feel fearful and anxious. Your thoughts might be catastrophizing and awfulizing, making up the stories of everything in the future that could go wrong.
You might feel guilt or shame, in which case you keep replaying a loop in your mind of what you did wrong in the past.
Take a little time to sit in silence and ask Spirit to speak to you about what is the emotion and thought pattern that you need to break.
Awareness: the feelings-thoughts-feelings loop
There is a reason that we stay stuck in this loop of thoughts and emotions – it’s what we are used to. What we know. And no matter how “bad” it is for us, we may be afraid of what is on the other side of change!
This is a comfortable and safe place – no matter how uncomfortable it is or how much we want to transform!
Ego keeps us in the same loops. Spirit moves us in a spiral of growth – small steps forward in growth and change.
We are each called to be more – to be transformed and renewed.
Desiring change and transformation
We cannot change the past and we have no control over the future. The only moment in which you can transform and renew your mind is this moment.
You can make a daily habit of transformation and renewal, but there will be a practice and discipline required of you.
Being in this moment.
Each and every day.
Wanting to change isn’t enough
Desiring change is not enough. Praying and asking God to change you is not enough – unless you are willing to let go of the way you were.
There’s a reason that after each healing Jesus would say “Go, and sin no more“.
Break the habit of who you used to be and start to live from this new place of having been transformed by the renewing of your mind, feeling a new way, and doing things differently. It’s not just the external – the actions. It’s the inner work: feelings and thoughts.
Willingness to change: surrender to the Divine
Part of the willingness to change is surrender. There is a part that you do… and there is a part where you have to simply have faith that the transformation is happening no matter that you cannot see it.
In 2018 I started a practice of silence. Of just sitting and focusing on my breath – being present – for 20-30 minutes each day.
In 2020, in the midst of the chaos, a friend pointed out to me that I was unflappable… and I realised that I had a peace that I could not explain or understand!
I was content to trust and surrender what was out of my control to the Divine.
I couldn’t tell you WHEN that happened. I simply adopted the daily practice and trusted the process. The peace in my heart appeared when I needed it the most.
Transforming the Heart
Once you have become aware of what you are leaving behind, allow your heart to sit with what you want and desire to feel.
Perhaps you want the peace that passeth all understanding.
Maybe you desire to be filled with Divine Love.
Or you might just want to trust and surrender.
When you get your new heart and are driven by a new emotion – what would you like that to be?
For example, one of the emotions that I was working on was fear. And I wanted to transform that into trust and courage. Another emotion that I have worked on is shame, and I wanted to transform that into love and acceptance.
What do I desire?
Allow yourself to sit in the silence and listen to your heart.
When you are connected to Source in the silence, what does the Creator want for you?
Discovering my Divine Purpose
An even bigger question that you might be willing to sit with is “What is my Divine Purpose?”. Where does your heart feel lead when it is completely connected with Spirit?
The answer might take some time (days, weeks or even months) to clarify.
Choosing peace & joy:
No matter what you decide, ultimately, you want to quieten your emotions and the ego mind, so that you can sit in silence with Spirit.
It is here that you will be open to receiving what the Creator has for you. The final outcome of whatever transformation and renewing of your mind will be a deep inner peace and a contentment that supersedes any situation of what is happening to you.
Transforming my mind:
Once you have decided on the new emotion you want to feel, notice what kind of thoughts you have when you feel this way. Imagine, for example, that you were feeling fear and you choose that now you want to feel courage.
Consider the last time you felt courageous, and notice what you were thinking about. Where did your thoughts center when you felt courageous?
What do I choose to focus on?
We are reminded time and time again in the Bible “think on these things”. As you will have noticed, there’s a reason why we focus our thoughts on these things: by focusing our thoughts, we can focus our emotions.
But, it’s not an ostensible thinking on these things – from a place of self-righteousness or judgement.
The ony person who you are transforming by the renewing of your mind is yourself!
So, keep the thoughts and focus real!
When you think on “what is true” – consider the reality of what you are facing and notice your perspective and the stories you have told yourself in the past about the situation. Ask yourself “is this true?” and if it is not, then consider other perspectives of what might be true.
For example, perhaps someone looks at you funny. Your first thought might be: “they don’t like me”. Is this true? Perhaps they were looking away from something else and merely happened to glance in your direction and didn’t actually even see you (like when someone is looking off into the distance).
Keep it real.
Affirmations of faith:
I love using affirmations, spoken out loud. But they need to resonate with me on a deep level. When I say them, I notice how I respond to them: am I doubting them? How could I reword them in a such a way that they are true for me at this time?
So, many times, instead of saying “I am ….” I will say “I am learning to be …”. This is true and I can affirm it without question! Eventually, I will reach a point where I an truthfully say “I am…” and it will no longer raise within me resistance.
I am also much more carefully now what I choose to read and where I choose to invest my time. GIGO = garbage in, garbage out.
Finally, I look closely at my gifts and strengths – these were given to me with purpose! I affirm these gifts and strengths, and focus on using them and allowing them to help me on my way. It’s not that I ignore my weaknesses – but each of us has been given gifts to help us on this journey.
Imagining and envisioning a new way:
Finally, I invite you to begin to envision and imagine yourself reacting to situations in a new way. We are creatures of habit.
Each day, take a moment to envision and see yourself walking in faith and responding from a place of a transformed and renewed mind. Believe that as you practice this, practicing responding in new ways each day, that you will be transformed and renewed.
It is an act of faith to work on this transformation each and every day without seeing the end result immediately.
Renewing my mind:
As you learn to refocus your mind, your emotions will also change to match these thoughts.
Rewriting neural pathways
Neuroscience teaches us that we can teach an old dog new tricks – our brains are constantly learning new pathways. They become shortcuts (the path of least resistance) when we use them repeatedly.
The more often you choose to go down a particular thought path, the easier it becomes to repeat this, especially in situations of stress or when you “aren’t thinking”.
The time for learning a new habit – rewriting your thoughts – is daily. When you are in the midst of chaos and a situation that would normally set you off, you will have a brief moment in which you become aware that you have a choice: and the choice that you make at that moment will also have a huge impact on how your brains and your emotions learn!
Will you choose to do things as you have always done them?
Or will you choose the new path – the transformation because you have renewed your mind?
We are promised that we will be given new hearts and that Divine law will be written in our minds.
I hold this to be true.
But I am also aware that I have to be open to the transformation happening – I have a role to play in ensuring that I don’t fall back into my old habitual ways of thinking and feeling.
My heart will remain soft, vulnerable and tender inasmuch as I am willing to keep it vulnerable and tender. How will I choose to respond when life throws me a curveball?
Will I remain open and teachable?
How will I know that I have truly been transformed by the renewing of my mind?
Am I choosing each day to focus on being open to the Divine – in remaining in awe and wonder of Creation?
Do I choose silence each day or do I keep myself so busy that I don’t listen and see? God is never going to talk to me about transforming and renewing someone else’s mind or changing their behaviour: the small, still voice will always be gently chastening me about what needs to change and align in my life!
Is my delight in this relationship with Spirit?
I will love God with all my heart, mind and soul
Can I say that I am filled with Divine Love?
This is the ultimate test… the holy grail of where I aspire to be and grow into.
Are my thoughts and emotions completely aligned with this love?
In this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians, he reminds them that not only is he designated by the will of God, but rather that all of them are also called.
Leaving aside my personal bones to pick with Paul, I cannot ignore the deep learnings that are available to us from reading this passage. Each of us, even today, has a calling. These verses remind us that we are up to this task – the task of fulfilling our purpose – because the Divine enriches every aspect of our lives.
I want to explore:
What we are invited into?
Consider the tools and gifts we are each given to fulfil our life mission.
Your Divine purpose
Every tree, every blade of grass, each bird fulfils a purpose on this planet. When we take the time to simply sit and notice, we see how each living being on earth, whether plant, animal or human, fits into the bigger scheme of life.
Nonetheless, we also see a lot of confusion – internally and in society – about our purpose and callings. Many of us are merely “staying alive” and struggling to survive.
Growing up in a very evangelical church, I was brought up to believe that my purpose would be “a cross to carry”. I was terrified of discovering my purpose, hoping it would not be a calling to go to Africa as a missionary. In churches, we talk about “knowing the will of God in your life”, but most of the time it’s put on us as “you’re called into missions” or “you’re called to preach the word of God”.
But if we take a look at most of the “heroes” of the Bible, we find that they were ordinary people with ordinary jobs. They simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. And when they were asked to step into doing something “big”, their lives had already prepared them for this.
Consider Deborah, for example. While she was considered a prophet, she was busy doing her day-to-day responsibilities of being the local “judge”. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t see her job, most days, as anything out of the ordinary. Especially if you watch any episodes of traffic courts or have ever spent a couple of hours in your local magistrate’s court, you will see the everyday complaints that people bring. There was nothing remarkable about her calling — until there was.
Knowing your Divine purpose starts with recognising that we were already given the necessary gifts to fulfil our mission. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this:
“you are not ill-equipped or slighted on any necessary gifts”.
If you are unsure what your purpose and mission are, a great place to start is looking at your talents and natural gifts and abilities. You have everything you need to fulfil your purpose in life. Because a bird has wings, it flies (or if it’s a chicken, it tries to).
I doubt cherry trees complain to each other that they wish they were able to produce oranges, and yet we waste so much of our time lamenting the gifts and talents that we don’t have.
Today I want to invite you to do an inventory of your natural gifts and talents, and consider your calling and purpose in this light.
Set apart for service
Think for a moment of when you are arranging a table for dinner: you go to the cupboard, and you pick up the plates. If there are four of you for dinner, you don’t choose six plates, but only four. You set them aside for service: the ones that you need when you need them. The rest of the dishes sit in the cupboard, waiting to be shown when they will be required.
Know this: you have been set aside for service. Perhaps you feel like you are sitting in the cupboard – always on the shelf rather than in the game. I wonder if Deborah thought that she was on the shelf as she worked through listening to all the petty complaints that were brought before her.
But Paul reminds us that our purpose will be revealed.
There are two other callings, apart from our life purpose. We are called to be saints, and we are called into community.
Called to be saints
While Deborah might have been “a saint”, the first description of Deborah was that she was the wife of Lapidoth. I wonder if Lapidoth considered her to be “a saint”; probably not in the way that you and I imagine the word to mean.
So, today I invite you to rewrite your definition of what it means to be a saint!
The calling to be saints is about how we live our day-to-day lives. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it’s compassion:
Love for the Divine, with a constant connection that we are overflowing with love and compassion
Love for our neighbour as ourself
Compassion allows us to be kind and patient. It will enable us to live with love in our lives, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:
not envious, proud or boastful
not self-seeking or dishonouring others
it keeps no record of wrongs and is not easily angered
We are all called to live in this place of being fulling aligned with Divine Love. What is your personal definition of what it means to live as a saint? Make it realistic for you, rather than something so out of reach that you could not aspire to live each day in sainthood!
Called into community
You are also called into community: that we cannot live in isolation. Take a moment and consider what your community looks like:
hobbies and activities that you participate in
volunteering & community activities
your neighbourhood where you live
your spiritual community
What does your community look like?
God is enriching every aspect of your life
You are promised that nothing is lacking because you have all the gifts that you need. Paul describes this as
God is enriching every aspect of your lives.
He then goes on to explain what he means by this.
You are enriched in speech
This means, when you are in touch with the Divine and that deep inner knowing, you will have the right words to say. Enriched in speech is knowing what to say and when to say nothing.
Most of us want to think about what to say. We make up scenarios and speeches in our head, failing to listen to the still small voice of Spirit.
Consider silence and just going within to listen, confident that you are enriched in speech.
You are enriched in knowledge
Everything you need to know, you will know. Can you trust this?
My first “real job” at sixteen was working as a cashier at McDonald’s: “Would you like fries with that?”. Later in life, I have come to cherish what I learned from “would you like fries with that?” – because it is a lesson in upselling. McDonald’s sells millions of fries every year because of this simple phrase. The client is already there, and they have their wallet in their hand, ready to buy something. The cashier doesn’t know what the client wants, and often the result of the question is “no, but I will have…”. While they didn’t sell the fries, they got an additional sale from the client.
This mundane, everyday job taught me a skill that has served me well over the past thirty years. Am I always open to adding more value to someone else’s life?
You, too, are enriched with knowledge. You have life experiences, abilities and life lessons that you possibly haven’t tapped into. You might not be aware of everything you know.
But trust that you know everything that you need to know when you need it. You are enriched with knowledge.
Enriched with God’s grace, peace & faithfulness
Today I want to remind you that you are enriched with grace, peace and faithfulness. I don’t mean that you show others mercy, but instead that you accept grace, be open to a peace that transcends your understanding, and that you experience Divine faithfulness towards you.
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)
It is said that the grace of God is the opposite of karma – it’s receiving the good that you do not deserve because you are a child of God. You are loved and cherished. In my life, I can see where I have blocked grace, continuing to believe that I deserve punishment and the consequences of my decisions and actions. Nonetheless, we are enriched with grace. Are you willing to accept more grace?
We are also enriched with peace: that peace that while we are waiting, we will be sustained emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s the peace that we hold within us, even in the middle of the storm. This inner peace does not depend on what is happening in our environment. While we are aware of the situation and in touch with it – we are present – but we also connect with the Divine. It is that Divine that allows us to say
I am not overcome by the storm, because I am one with the storm.
Sometimes storms clear our path. Can you recognise this inner peace which sustains you while you wait?
Finally, the Divine is faithful, constant and true. When I say we are enriched with faithfulness, I am not referring to your faith in God, but rather how the Divine relates to you! It doesn’t matter how small your faith is, but rather that we know that Divine Love is faithful. We can trust that all things are working for our good and that we are enriched with all good things.
Our response to this is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.
If you are struggling to discover your purpose, consider a daily practice of gratitude, where you each day you focus your attention and thanksgiving on your talents, gifts, strengths and abilities. Start to notice the patterns and what you genuinely enjoy. Be grateful for the desires of your heart and the wisdom and insight that you gain from being present.
Take note of the times when you receive grace: when in spite of the natural consequences of your choices and decisions, you get a second chance! Practice thanksgiving for all those opportunities.
Start to notice when you are filled with peace, in spite of the situations and challenges you are facing. Be grateful for those moments.
Notice the presence of the Divine in your life in each moment of the day. Sit in silence and be thankful.
One of the reasons that I think Christians get such a bad rap, is that we only ever talk about our struggles behind closed doors – if we admit them at all! Perhaps if we admitted our struggles to those outside of Churches – especially the struggles with ego and learning to truly love, we would find that others were more accepting when we tried to share our journey with them!
But, if your upbringing in the church was anything like mine – God forbid that we admit to others that we have doubts about faith, God and “salvation”. You parrot off that you are sharing God’s love with the world, as you Bible-bash them into salvation.
I’ve spent a lot of time, these last three weeks, in silence – being still with my thoughts. I also spent a lot of time binging on Netflix in between. I was trying to work through a particular pattern in my life that I was sick of repeating!
But, I also had to recognise that I couldn’t spend 8 hours a day just in inner work. I would reach a point where I was tired of thinking and contemplating, and wanted to be mindless and entertained. It felt like too much to try to work it all out.
How many times do we run ourselves into the ground with compassion fatigue – burning ourselves out because we are always putting others first? While we were put on this earth to serve others, we also need to establish healthy boundaries in our lives, ones that allow us to love and show compassion to “me” as well as to other human becomings.